HeartI love to preach. I feel alive when I stand before people and try to communicate God’s word with relevance, accuracy, and passion. Through the years many have told me that I have the ‘gift’. God has gifted me to preach. I feel His pleasure when I preach the Word.

In recent years however, I have been preaching much less. Because of serious personal problems I have had to cut back on my public preaching. It was very painful.

However it did free me to pursue other forms of ministry. Like writing. And spiritual mentoring.

And as much as I still enjoy preaching, I have come to see that the most important way to effect permanent change in peoples’ lives is through relationships. Through spiritual mentoring.

Public preaching and teaching is excellent for inspiration and information. But shaping hearts require ongoing relationships.

I have longed suspected this. Even before I did my theological studies at Regent College. But Regent and James Houston in particular helped give expression to what was already in my heart.

I quote Dr. Houston:

“The human heart cries out against reductionism. And that is what we are facing in our culture. A mentor you see, is different. He or she is not someone who can give you all the answers. He or she is someone who can cry with you when there is no answer, someone who can weep with you when you are wounded and there is no healing. A mentor is simply a companion in your situation. Now it may be that hopefully that mentor has already gone through experiences that are new to us, and therefore we seek that help from that wise man or woman. Clearly what we are looking for in a mentor is someone that has more depth than whatever a fixer can ever give to us? Perhaps the desire for mentors may indicate the isolation of the self within contemporary society and that the alienation that we are suffering is increasingly more intensified.”

The irony is that few Christian leaders are committed to an ongoing ministry of spiritual mentoring. We have preachers, healers, managers, CEOs, miracle workers, etc and I am sure the body of Christ needs people with many different gifts.

But if the crying need of the hour is for spiritual mentors that the demand far, far outstrips supply.

We may be living in the “Third Wave” but many of our churches and parachurches are still acting like second wave institutions. We put our converts through some teaching-equipping programme so that they can quickly function in the system. The focus is “product” and “process”. But where are the people? Each one of us is so different.

All parents know this. If you have more than one child you will learn early how different your children are. And so you learn that each child must be nurtured differently But in many Christian institutions the individual is lost.

We live in times of rapid and enormous change. People are crying out for understanding and perspective. They need safe friends who will listen to their cries. Who will walk with them. To help them to be more rooted in Christ. (Then they can better minister for Christ.) This is the need of the hour.

I guess with the passing of time I will be allowed to do more preaching. But hey, I’ll be 50 in a few years. Surprise, I won’t be living forever. I have to make choices. And I choose, Lord willing, to be a spiritual friend to as many of the key people that God brings into my life. I choose to be a 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Christian.

“Therefore encourage one another, build one another up?” REB